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Reuben Saltzman

My search for an out-of-state home inspector

I have out-of-state family who are in the process of buying a new home.  I told them I’d find a good home inspector in their area, assuming I would already know someone in their area from an online discussion group or from ActiveRain.  No such luck.  Oh well… the search begins.

Home Inspector Search

At first, my search for a home inspector started out kind of fun, a little like searching for a house.  It was easy for me to weed out home inspectors, but I actually ended up weeding out way too many.  I was left with no one, for one reason or another.

Blah

I found several themes on home inspector web  sites.  The ‘basic’ web sites were all extremely similar – it was “Hire me because:”

  • A home is probably the largest investment you will ever make.  Blah blah blah (and now, stop talking).  Why do so many home inspectors need to tell people this?  If someone is shopping for a home inspector, they’re probably already sold on the idea of a home inspection.  
  • I’ll give you peace of mind.  I’d rather find someone who will give me the straight story, even if the information doesn’t give me peace of mind. 
  • I abide by [insert association]’s Standards of Practice.  So does everyone else.
  • I’m licensed.  Gee, lets hope so if your state requires it.
  • I’m independent.  You mean the real estate agent doesn’t pay you off to ignore defects?  I suppose that’s good…
  • I charge less than my competition.  I assume there is a reason for this.

Turn-offs

I found many web sites that turned me off right away; these sites had common themes to them.

  • Claims to be the best / most detailed / most comprehensive / most thorough / etc.  They’re making a claim that’s impossible to prove.  I don’t trust this person.
  • As many colors and fonts jammed in to one page as possible.  This reminds me of a little girl who got in to her mom’s make-up bag.
  • Claims that their home inspection association (ASHI, NACHI, NAHI, etc) is better than the other associations.  Badmouthing other associations or claiming superiority of their association doesn’t make them look better; it makes them look petty.
  • Warnings about blind home inspectors.  I’ve never met a blind home inspector.  I feel as though I’m being talked down to when I hear warnings about unqualified home inspectors, and I’m afraid they’re going to talk down to my family members during the inspection.  Just tell me about yourself.

Turn-ons

The better web sites give more specific information about the home inspector.

  • I have these certifications
  • I’m a member of this association
  • I walk on the roof to inspect it
  • I crawl through crawl spaces to inspect them
  • I’ve been in the business for a long time
  • I’m thorough, detailed, patient… and many other adjectives.

After looking through enough web sites,  it becomes hard to compare all of that.  Also, none of this stuff tells me the person is a good home inspector; it just tells me they are qualified to be a good home inspector.

Online presence = bonus points

I didn’t exclude any home inspectors from my search just because they didn’t engage in social media, but I certainly gave them bonus points for doing so.  It helps me learn more about them.   Facebook, Twitter, Youtube… all that stuff helps me to learn more about the company.

Of course, I also gave bonus points to home inspectors with active blogs.  How could I not?

Online reviews were also nice to see.

…but it all boils down to the report.

For me, it all comes down to the home inspection report.  This is the single most important part of deciding on a home inspector for me, because it tells me more about the home inspector than anything else possibly could.  I started writing about what I look for in a home inspection report, but it started turning in to a whole new topic.  I’ll save that for another day.

Unfortunately, many of the inspectors that I decided were the most qualified didn’t even have sample inspection reports on their web site.   If I had found a home inspector with a good inspection report, I would have recommended them, but I couldn’t find one.  I got a few referrals from the ASHI online discussion forums, so I contacted the inspectors that were referred, asking for sample inspection reports.  You’d think I was asking for social security numbers.

One inspector made me promise not to share the report, even after he removed all of the identifying information, and another refused to let me view a sample report.   No joke.   The one who sent me a report with no questions asked actually had a very good report, and she’s the one I’ll end up recommending to my family.

PART TWO: Comparing home inspection reports

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email – Minnesota Home Inspector

        

 

No responses to “My search for an out-of-state home inspector”

  1. Reuben (not the inspector)
    December 20, 2011, 10:20 am

    I like professionals that are interested in teaching others about their profession. Creating an online presence is the quickest and easiest way for a professional in the building/trades industries to win me over. If they blog, even in a mediocre way, they’ll probably be my first call.

    What I appreciate most about this blog is the way that you don’t treat your knowledge as proprietary secrets that only professionals should know. You freely share your knowledge – not only of problems, but how to fix the problems. Most home inspector websites I’ve seen have some kind of photo gallery showcasing things that are wrong. The StructureTech blog points out problems AND tells me how it should have been done instead, and what should be done now to fix it. THIS is valuable. Someone that just walks around pointing out problems is not valuable.

    I’m disappointed that there aren’t more tradespersons blogging. Here in the twin cities, I don’t really know of any carpenters, electricians, plumbers, roofers, etc that actively blog about their industry. If there were, they would undoubtedly be my first call next time I was looking to hire someone. Allowing me to get to know them online and see day by day the sorts of things they’re working on is definitely the easiest way to get my work. I will gladly pay extra for a tradesperson I have confidence in. When I’m just pulling names out of the yellow pages, I can’t have confidence in anyone. Even getting a positive referral from someone else isn’t enough – I had a terrible experience hiring a floor sanding guy that came very highly recommended from a trusted friend.

    For me, a professional that is interested in photographing, documenting, and publishing their work products is someone who takes pride in their work.

  2. Reuben Saltzman
    December 20, 2011, 12:07 pm

    Reuben – thanks. I feel the same way that you do. I’m guessing that within the next five years, we’re going to see a whole new crop of ‘trade’ blogs.

  3. Lee Loerch
    December 22, 2011, 10:49 am

    Hi Reuben,

    Here’s a story of what happens when you don’t do this right.

    Ten years ago my daughter and son-in-law moved to Vermont from Minnesota. They offered on a house and through the realtor secured a home inspector (from New Hampshire).

    I had recently completed a video course in Home Inspection (I’ve never worked at it professionally.), and I had a phone conversation with the inspector before he did the inspection. I asked specifically what he would cover and received all the “right” answers. I received a copy of the inspection report, which painted the place OK, but was not on a detailed form, and liberally sprinkled with the suspicious phrase “typical for a house of this age” (built in 1700).

    Unfortunately, they bought the house first.

    We had to rewire about half the house–as much as we could without putting in a new service, which it still needs, fill the gaps in the stacked stone foundation, rid the attic of a massive colony of carpenter ants living in a bunch of old blankets that had been stuffed between the attic joists as insulation, re-grade the slope away from the house, replace the furnace, and more. “Typical for a house of this age” huh? I’ve always wished I’d hopped a plane and done it myself, even though I had no professional experience.

    My main point is to emphasize that your advice is absolutely spot-on, and those who ignore it do so at their peril. Another point is to be very specific and detailed with the inspector, and make sure your relatives follow up on any suspicous stuff before they buy.

    Lee

  4. My search for an out-of-state home inspector, part two: comparing inspection reports | Structure Tech Home Inspections
    January 3, 2012, 5:09 am

    […] was a great home inspector was much more difficult.   As I mentioned at the end of my blog about finding an out-of-state home inspector, it all came down to comparing sample home inspection […]

  5. Dean Forrest
    February 6, 2012, 9:27 pm

    As a home inspector just starting a blog, I am looking around at other inspectors’ sites and pretty much found what you’ve described also. I appreciate your comments. I’m trying to do something different than so many of the others.
    Please check my site out and tell me what you think.

    home inspector cottonwood az

    It’s new still. I have much yet to do but any advice is welcome.

    Thanks,

    Dean

  6. Garet Denise
    February 15, 2012, 10:28 am

    Reuben,

    Nice article. Last year I went through this same process for an out-of-state friend and my experience exactly mirrors yours. I was amazed (and disappointed) at the lack of professionalism on most home inspector’s web sites. The only people that I personally would have hired were a 4 hour drive away. Most of the people I found need to take a Business & Marketing 101 class.

    I’m glad you were able to provide some assistance for your family member.

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